As any homeowner will tell you, if something major is going to break, it will happen on the weekend. That’s so you can spend hours trying to find a tradesman to fix your problem and then spend double-time paying for the repairs.
In my case, it was a hot water heater. From what I could tell, it was installed a decade ago, so it had long outlived its useful life. I was lucky. On the other hand, the day it decided to die was a Sunday, and not being too savvy about things really important like hot water heaters, I was convinced that unless I fixed it immediately, my house would float away like Noah’s Ark into Lake Winnipesaukee.
So I started calling plumbers. And there was one name that immediately came to mind: Godot (not his real name). I have lived here in Gilford for eight years and have seen his advertisements at least daily ever since I moved in. His ads are in the local papers, on the local internet sites, he’s got an expensive full page ad in several telephone directories, I believe I even received a personal direct mail piece from him when I bought my home.
In all of his sales materials, Mr. Godot promises prompt, personal, courteous, and affordable plumbing service. (When will tradesmen start being honest by admitting that they fully intend to be late, rude, and over-priced?) In any case, I decide that Mr. Godot is my man and call the number in the Yellow Pages. Oh, yes, he also promises that a real live human being will answer the phone. Evidently, that only applies on weekdays. Fine. His telephone machine tells me that if this is an emergency to press five on my keypad and leave a description of my problem. Someone, he says, will get right back to me.
OK. It is Sunday. The sun is shining. I know that at least 10 Seattle Plumbing million refugees from Massachusetts are speeding around Lake Winnipesaukee in their power boats. But surely Mr. Godot, who promises to be a different kind of plumber — caring, courteous, understanding, and AVAILABLE! — is not riding around the Lake but making preparations to repair my hot water heater.
No one calls.
After two hours of waiting no one from Mr. Godot’s plumbing company returns my phone call. As a matter of fact, no one calls me back on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, etc. I did call his office again on Monday, wondering what the heck was going on. The man on the other end of the line promised to look into the service problem and call me back. Do you believe in the Tooth Fairy?
That Sunday, after giving up on Mr. Godot, I called a few other plumbers and eventually called the Sears Service Center. They had a local sub-contractor call me back that very afternoon. He assured me that my house was not going to float away, helped me determine the severity of the problem and pick out a replacement heater. He was here the next day, friendly, courteous, competent, and about $300 less expensive than the other plumbers I talked to. For the record, his name is Len Lamothe and he operates his plumbing business, Spearpoint Plumbing and Heating, out of Canterbury, New Hampshire. I am happy to recommend him.
In the meantime, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Mr. Godot. From a marketing standpoint, I keep thinking about the tens of thousands of dollars he wasted convincing me of his plumbing and customer service skills. All that money and good will simply went down the drain. Wasted. Because he didn’t deliver the service he promised. Because no one in his company returned my phone calls.
Lesson? Be certain you are ready to serve your customers when they need you, not the other way around. If your business cannot or will not respond during off-hours, make your real “I’ll get right back to you” business hours clear in your marketing materials. This applies to both large corporations and small trade businesses. The winners — the smart ones — are the ones who are ready to sell when their customers are really ready to buy.